Blu-ray Review HTF Blu-ray Review: DIRTY DANCING, Limited Keepsake Edition

Michael Reuben

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Michael Reuben



[SIZE= 24px]Dirty Dancing (Blu-ray)[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 20px]Limited Keepsake Edition[/SIZE]



Studio: Lionsgate


Rated: PG-13


Film Length: 105 min.


Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1


HD Encoding: 1080p


HD Codec: AVC


Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1; English DD 5.1 EX*


Subtitles: English; English SDH; Spanish


MSRP: $34.99


Disc Format: 1 50GB + 1 DVD (digital copy)


Package: Box w/cut-out cover; slimfold disc case; commemorative book


Theatrical Release Date: Aug. 21, 1987


Blu-ray Release Date: May 4, 2010



[SIZE= 9px]*Contrary to my initial report, I have confirmed that this track is indeed EX-encoded.[/SIZE]





[SIZE= 18px]Introduction: [/SIZE]



How often do I release thee? Let me count the ways! It’s fitting that Dirty Dancing was the first film produced by Vestron Video, a company formed to exploit the newly emerging video rental market at a time when the major studios hadn’t yet recognized its potential. The film is now a poster child for the endless multiple-dipping that has become a staple of home video. With VHS, laserdisc and DVD re-issues too numerous to count, it has accumulated layers of special features so thick that the film itself almost disappears under them. In this, its second appearance on Blu-ray, Lionsgate has added even more. The “Limited Keepsake Edition” is a super-duper, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink version that must surely be the ultimate, complete, final Dirty Dancing.



Until the next one.




[SIZE= 18px]The Feature:[/SIZE]



Oh please. Like you don’t know the story. (Yeah, you too, the guy over there pretending he’s never seen it.)



In the summer of 1963, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) accompanies her physician father (Jerry Orbach), indulgent mother (Kelly Bishop) and airhead sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) to a holiday at Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills. Having just graduated high school, Baby is an idealist who wants to join the Peace Corps and change the world, but she hasn’t yet discovered herself. Still, she knows enough to be repulsed by the attentions of Neil (Lonny Price), the smug wimp who’s the grandson and heir-apparent of the resort’s owner, Max Kellerman (Jack Weston).



Baby’s attention is caught by what Neil dismissively refers to as “the dance people” and their wild, wicked ways. She’s especially intrigued by handsome Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and even more so when she discovers that Johnny’s relationship with his regular partner, Penny (Cynthia Rhodes), is strictly platonic. Before the holiday is over, Baby will have learned to dance (both regular and “dirty” style), fallen in love, exonerated Johnny from false charges, quarreled and reconciled with her father (over Johnny, of course), helped Penny out of a jam with an unwanted pregnancy, and ensured that the creep responsible for Penny’s predicament – an Ayn Rand-worshipping pre-med waiter named Robbie (Max Cantor) – gets the comeuppance he so richly deserves.



And life would never be the same again.



I can’t be the first person to have noticed that Dirty Dancing is, at its core, a classic musical. In many respects, its structure is that of West Side Story, but it uses a period “top 40" score, the characters express their deepest feelings through dance instead of song, the Sharks and the Jets have been replaced by rich people vs. poor people, and there’s a fairy tale happy ending. Baby Houseman is the familiar musical protagonist who feels that “something’s coming”. Like Ariel in The Little Mermaid, she opens the show by announcing to the audience that she yearns for something, and the story is about her getting what she wants. In Baby’s case, what she wants is to stop being called “Baby” (even though, as she says in an initial voiceover, she didn’t even know it yet). That’s why it’s so important that, in the film’s finale, where she performs the very grown-up dance moves she’s been learning from Johnny before mom, dad and the assembled guests and staff of Kellerman’s, she’s first introduced to everyone as “Frances Houseman”.



Contemporary filmmakers who keep trying and failing to make successful movie musicals might want to spend a good long time breaking down Dirty Dancing. They should analyze the efficiency with which the script moves the characters from one key situation to another, wasting no time on excess exposition or motivation. (It’s a lot harder than it looks.) They should try emulating the simple directness of its emotional expression. (Nothing kills a musical quicker than irony, unless you’re Sondheim or Kander & Ebb.) And they should pay strict attention to how director Emile Ardolino (whose untimely death robbed us of some great films) staged and shot the dance numbers so that the energy burns through the screen without fussy, obtrusive editing to spoil the sense of fluid motion. (Fill in the name of your favorite offender here.) The film made an international star of Patrick Swayze, and his performance certainly earned it. But watching Dirty Dancing again after seeing Moulin Rouge, Chicago and Nine makes you appreciate the directorial talent required to capture a physical performance like Swayze’s on film so effectively that, twenty-three years later, it’s still forceful and entertaining.




[SIZE= 18px]Video:[/SIZE]



I have not seen the previous Blu-ray, but this is reportedly a new transfer. The image is soft, but it’s certainly film-like, with visible but not excessive grain, and a level of detail that I’ve never seen before in outdoor backgrounds, interior surfaces and period costumes. The shadow detail in night scenes is not especially noteworthy, but the blacks are black, not gray. What I appreciated most about this transfer is the apparent absence of any attempt to use boosted contrast to create the illusion of additional detail where there simply isn’t any. I haven’t followed the multiple “dips” of Dirty Dancing since its original DVD release, but this is certainly the best version I’ve seen on home video, and it looks much better than a low-budget independent Eighties movie has any right to.




[SIZE= 18px]Audio:[/SIZE]



The original version of this review indicated that the DTS-HD MA track would not send its DTS "core" to the S/PDIF outputs of Blu-ray player. That statement was an error caused settings needed to access some of the special features. In fact, the DTS lossless track on this disc has been mastered and behaves just like it should.



In any case, all this technical fuss hardly seems worth the trouble for a 1987 low-budget film that was only later remixed for 5.1 discrete sound (and now 7.1). This is a front-centered mix that only occasionally expands into the surrounds for such obvious effects as rainfall, applause or woodland sounds. The chief beneficiary of the DTS lossless track is the familiar and infectious musical score, including the Oscar-winning “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”. The songs get plenty of breathing room and sound terrific. The dialogue is clear, and the effects are about what you’d expect from a stereo track repurposed for 7.1.




[SIZE= 18px]Special Features:[/SIZE]



Features marked with an asterisk are new with this edition, according to the press materials.



Commentary with Writer/Co-Producer Eleanor Bergstein. Bergstein not only wrote the script, but she also based large parts of it on her own life. Though she never met a Johnny, she was known as “Baby” until age 19, and she entered many “dirty dancing” contests. As a film producer, she was intensely hands-on, and her recall for details of the shoot is exceptional. She speaks continuously and at a rapid pace throughout the track, supplying a wealth of information about every aspect of the film from the writing process through the release.



Commentary with Choreographer Kenny Ortega, Assistant Choreographer Miranda Garrison, Cinematographer Jeff Jur, Costume Designer Hilary Rosenfeld and Production Designer David Chapman. The participants were recorded separately, except for Ortega and Garrison who recorded jointly. The comments have been excerpted and intercut to create a single track. Jur and Rosenfeld are of greatest interest, because their contributions aren’t covered anywhere else in the extensive extras. (If Jur’s name is familiar, it’s because he’s shot numerous high-profile TV series, including Carnivàle and Flash Forward.)



Trivia Track. I’m not a fan of on-screen trivia tracks, but this one is well-done. The inserts appear and disappear simply and, best of all, silently. The items are well-chosen and relevant to the film (which is not always the case with such features). They include historical information from the period, biographical facts about the actors, information about various dance steps, and details relating to the production.



*Kellerman’s: Reliving the Locations of the Film (SD; enhanced for 16:9) (12:24). This featurette focuses primarily on the Mountain Lake resort in Virginia, which was used for the main buildings at Kellerman’s. Production designer David Chapman explains how he coordinated the shoot so that footage from Mountain Lake would blend with footage shot at Lake Lure, North Carolina, which was used for scenes in the staff quarters and most interiors. Even today, Mountain Lake’s business receives a huge boost from the film. After Swayze died in 2009, the resort erected a monument in his honor.



The Dirty Dancing Phenomenon (SD; enhanced for 16:9) (13:43). A brief history of Vestron Video, its unexpected success with Dirty Dancing, and its inability to repeat that success.



Tributes (SD; enhanced for 16:9, except where indicated).

  • *In Memoriam (1:58). A photo montage set to music, similar to the tributes shown at awards shows.

  • *A Tribute to Patrick Swayze (15:15). The principal participants are Swayze’s brother, Donny; his wife, Lisa; and the film’s choreographer, Kenny Ortega.

  • Emile Ardolino Tribute (13:28). Among several participants, Eleanor Bergstein speaks passionately about Ardolino, with whom she remained close friends until his death in 1993.

  • Tribute to Jerry Orbach (4:3) (6:33). Narrated by Kelly Bishop, who played Mrs. Houseman, this is the most official-sounding of the tributes. It reviews Orbach’s entire career.



*The Rhythm of the Dancing (SD; enhanced for 16:9) (4:08). Patrick Swayze discusses the film’s soundtrack, with emphasis on the song “She’s Like the Wind”, which he co-wrote and sang on the soundtrack.



*For the Fans.

  • *Fan Reel (SD; enhanced for 16:9) (1:42) A montage of photos, videos and sketches submitted by fans from around the world.

  • *James and Julia Derbyshire: Dancing Across the Pond (SD; enhanced for 16:9) They’re “the Dirty Dancing couple”. She’s American and a wedding photographer; he’s English and does wedding videos. For their wedding, they recreated Baby’s and Johnny’s big final number. It got them a spot on Oprah, where they received a surprised visit from Patrick Swayze.



*Dancing to the Music (Blu-ray exclusive). (SD; enhanced for 16:9) (16:32). The story of how the soundtrack was created. Bergstein wrote the script to accompany a specific period playlist, which she created in advance with the help of “Cousin Brucie” Morrow, a part-time DJ who appears as a magician in the film. During production, it fell to music supervisor Michael Lloyd (with the help of Jimmy Ienner) to find the right songwriters to create original music that would mesh with the period selections. The rest is Oscar and platinum record history.



Theatrical Trailer (HD) (2:25). Although this is an HD version of the trailer, don’t watch it with high expectations. I suspect the source material wasn’t much to look at.



*Eleanor Bergstein Script (Blu-ray exclusive). According to an introductory note by Bergstein dated January 2010, no single complete script exists. There were numerous drafts, and revisions were constantly made during shooting. Bergstein has assembled the best version possible from her own records, and it is presented here, two pages at a time, complete with marginalia and handwritten notes.



Outtakes (SD; enhanced for 16:9) (0:38). Brief and mostly actors breaking character.



Music Videos (SD; 4:3). Get your Eighties MTV fix!

  • Hungry Eyes” (3:46)

  • She’s Like the Wind” (3:52)

  • (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” (4:43)



Multi-Angle Dance Sequences (SD; enhanced for 16:9). This is a carryover from the previous DVD release. The main viewing window is 1.85:1, centered in the top portion of the screen, with four thumbnails below, each of which shows a different camera angle. If your player lacks the ability to change angles (or if, like me, you’re too lazy to drag out the manual), don’t worry – the clip will repeat each of the four angles for you in succession.

  • The Lift (0:47)

  • Everybody Dance (1:54)



Interviews (SD; enhanced for 16:9)

  • Jennifer Grey (11:13). My favorite moment was Grey’s description of attending a pre-release screening with her then-agent, who hated the film but assured Grey that her career wouldn’t suffer because no one would see it.

  • Eleanor Bergstein (18:36). The highlight is Bergstein’s account of accompanying Swayze through an airport, where he was mobbed by female fans who stuffed his pocket with phone numbers, which the happily married Swayze dutifully tore up once he’d boarded the plane.

  • Miranda Garrison (13:19). Garrison was the assistant choreographer on the film, but she also played Vivian Pressman, the “bungalow bunny” whose jealousy prompts her to falsely accuse Johnny of theft. Included in this interview is a detailed account of how Garrison ended up with the role of Vivian, which was originally filled by Kelly Bishop, who ended up playing Mrs. Houseman after the original actress (Lynn Lipton) dropped out after one week of filming.

  • Kenny Ortega (15:21). Ortega speaks at length about assembling the principal dancers, workshopping the choreography and working with Swayze, Grey and Rhodes.



Original Screen Tests.

  • Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey Screen Test Montage (1:10). Excerpts from Grey’s screen test, including footage with Swayze and Ortega.

  • Jennifer Grey Screentest Comparisons. Two excerpts compare screen test footage with either the finished film or an extended scene. They are entitled “Baby Blackmails Lisa” (0:51; 1:06) and “Baby Confronts Dad” (1:04; 1:35). The latter is particularly interesting, because it shows (a) how quickly Grey captured the essence of Baby, and (b) how much more effective the scene is with cuts to Jerry Orbach’s silently expressive face reacting to Baby’s words.



Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes (SD; enhanced for 16:9). Many of these scenes are interesting, but none of them belonged in the finished film.

  • Deleted Scenes (11:48). Of the eleven scenes, perhaps the most intriguing is a brief moment in which Mrs. Houseman confronts Baby about her behavior; the scene shows a different side of Baby’s mother that would have been difficult to reconcile with her behavior during the finale. There is also a series of bad Borscht Belt jokes told by a pre-Seinfeld Wayne Knight, who played Stan, the M.C. at Kellerman’s.

  • Alternate Scenes (2:38). Of the three scenes, the most interesting is a pair showing an alternate version of the Housemans’ arrival at the resort. In the first rendition, Mrs. Houseman is played by Kelly Bishop. In the second, she’s played by Lynn Lipton, the actress Bishop replaced.

  • Extended Scenes (7:49). The seven scenes contain another pair of scenes contrasting Kelly Bishop’s portrayal of Mrs. Houseman with Lynn Lipton’s: a longer version of the scene where Lisa complains about being trapped inside by the rain and Baby leaves to play charades (but really to visit Johnny).



Vintage Featurette (SD; 4:3) (6:45). Made in 1987, this short is especially valuable for being the one place in the entire array of special features where we get to hear from the late Emile Ardolino, director of the film. Though his comments are all too brief, his approach to directing a dance film comes through loud and clear.



*Photo Gallery (Blu-ray exclusive). A small collection of production stills.



*Dirty Dancing Live in Concert (Blu-ray exclusive) (SD; 4:3) (1:22:56). This is for the truly hard-core fan. Produced in 1988 by Radio City Music Hall TV and VH-1 and released by Vestron Television, this concert was taped at L.A.’s Greek Theater before a huge and adoring crowd. The performers include Bill Medley, Eric Carmen (“Hungry Eyes”), Merry Clayton (“Yes”), The Contours (“Do You Love Me”) and “The Original Dirty Dancing Dancers”. While I can imagine that it might have fun, back in the day, to be part of the crowd, watching this concert today at VHS quality can only be described as having a high cheese factor.



Not that there’s anything wrong with that.



Disc Production Credits.



*Commemorative Book. Hardcover, with an introduction by Bergstein, and full of quotes, pictures and such oddities as the complete lyrics of the Kellerman’s anthem that Johnny interrupts with the immortal line: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”



*Digital Copy (Blu-ray exclusive).



*Coupon for $50 Discount at Mountain Lake Hotel, VA.




[SIZE= 18px]In Conclusion:[/SIZE]



The extras are exhaustive and exhausting, but they’re only there because an $8 million film grossed over $200 million worldwide and has continued to rack up video and soundtrack sales ever since. There’s a reason why first Vestron, then Live, then Artisan and now Lionsgate keep issuing and reissuing Dirty Dancing. The film is a genuine classic, and it holds up after twenty-three years. When it stops selling, they’ll stop reissuing it.



A lot of smart people have tried to explain the film’s continued popularity. My wife says it’s because Dirty Dancing is the rare coming-of-age story in which the protagonist is a woman. And she’s always right.




[SIZE= 10px]Equipment used for this review:[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px] [/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]Panasonic BDP-BD50 Blu-ray player (DTS-HD MA decoded internally and output as analog)[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]Samsung HL-T7288W DLP display (connected via HDMI) [/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]Lexicon MC-8 connected via 5.1 passthrough[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]Sunfire Cinema Grand amplifier[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]Monitor Audio floor-standing fronts and MA FX-2 rears[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]Boston Accoustics VR-MC center[/SIZE]

[SIZE= 10px]SVS SB12-Plus sub[/SIZE]
 

Nick Martin

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Mar 18, 2003
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The original Blu-ray release reportedly has one of the WORST transfers the format has ever seen.


I picked up both for my mother, but since I completely, utterly loathe musicals or musical-like movies like this, I've not seen more than ten minutes of it. Once I read about this re-release and the problems with the original I went and sampled it and it's incredible how bad that original is. It's an encoding nightmare.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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LOL. Can you believe I'm actually tempted to double-dip on this BD (provided I can get it at a nice price of course)? That's right, I actually have the original BD, and I can't even blame it on my wife or anything.


_Man_
 

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